We talk a lot about life consisting of three major parts . . . where you live, where you work, and where you play. In all those parts of life when you are just simply doing life as a Christian within the culture around you that is most definitely against you, you will have to say there is a struggle to maintain a strong and committed walk with Christ. And if you are honest when are striving to live a sold-out, committed Christian life you will most likely echo with me, “The struggle is real!”.
The allure and pull of culture is to get you away from your foundational truths. The world system that we are called to live in is not under the influence of God. It is influenced by Satan and goes contrary to a Biblical worldview, Biblical truths and living a Christ-like life. But what we have to understand is a truth I have come to embrace recently and it is this . . . Appearance doesn’t have to be reality! Another way you could say this is . . . What something appears to be does not have to be what it really is! God’s plan is to redeem culture.
This must be what I would call our “Default Setting for Life”. It’s like when your computer gets all cluttered up with “stuff” and in order for it to function right again, you have to totally clear it out and go back to the basic default settings. Through living life and encountering the world system and culture around you, you can get all “cluttered” up with all kinds of wrong thoughts and behaviors. There comes a time when you have to just delete all that clutter and unnecessary stuff and go back to your default setting which must be . . . Appearance doesn’t have to be reality!
God’s plan is to work in you and through you to bring about change in the world around you where you live, work and play. When you see the direction the world is going, that doesn’t have to be the way it ends up going . . . When you hear something in the news, it doesn’t have to play out like you hear or see . . . When you hear something from a friend that has not been proven yet or is not in line with God’s character, it doesn’t not have to end up that way. Here’s the deal . . . God is always at work all around us in every way and in everything and when
God is working . . . Appearance doesn’t have to be reality! The way something appear does not have to be the way they will really be! If you don’t believe that, what you are saying is, “That’s just the way it is.” Until it actually happens and until it is proven, that is NOT the way it is. If you serve the same God I serve . . . If you read the same Bible that I do . . . If have experienced God like I have . . . If you know the power or prayer . . . There is NO way you will say, “That’s just the way it is.” When it happens it is true that it is what it is, but even then it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Back in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings 6, Elisha is God’s prophet and messenger to the people of Israel. After Elijah was taken up to heaven in the chariots of fire, Elisha is chosen by God to take on the role of prophet. During this time the nation of Syria was an archenemy to Israel. And Elisha was able to give the Israelites really good intel about the Syrian army’s plans to attack. After this happened multiple times, the king of Syria is baffled and he is ticked to say the least. The king thinks he has a traitor around him and calls in his top officials and begins intensely questioning who this person is that is always a step ahead of him. But what he finds out is his spy is not internal; it is external. It is Elisha, the prophet of Israel who is giving divinely inspired intel from miles away.
He asks them to find out where Elisha is and he finds out he is in Dothan. 13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” (2 Kings 6:13). As soon as he finds out where Elisha is, he executes an attack plan that he thinks is guaranteed to succeed. 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. (2 Kings 6:14). He sneaks in under the cover of darkness and completely surrounding Elisha, leaving him no room for escape.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. The next morning when they all are getting their coffee and waking up, Elisha’s servant goes out and is scared to death at what he sees. 15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15). When he walks outside all he can see in every direction is the enemy army with all their horses and chariots. Now he is freaking out. He is wringing his hands, his heart is racing, his mind is going crazy, etc. And he asks Elisha the only thing he can think to ask, “What are we going to do?”
I really don’t think this is a question really seeking a plan because in his mind they are toast. This is a response of panic from a person who has given up hope. When you encounter the culture around you that is just beating you down . . . “What am I going to do?” . . . When you all you hear in the news is the daily “doom and gloom” report . . . “What are we going to do?” . . . When you get a report from the doctor and it is not good . . . “What am I going to do?” . . . When you are going through a divorce . . . “What am I going to do? . . . When you are butting heads with somebody that is just so hard to get along with . . . “What am I going to do? . . . When the boss says you are going to be laid off . . . “What am I going to do?” . . . etc.
You might be thinking by what you have read, what you have heard, what you have seen or what you have experienced that you are doomed. It’s like in Luke Bryan’s new song, Most People Are Good. One of the lines says, “I believe if you just go by the nightly news Your faith in all mankind would be the first thing you lose.” Whatever you have heard, read, seen or experienced, you always have to remember that when God is involved, and He always is . . . Appearance doesn’t have to be reality!
The way things appear does not have to be how they really are! Look at Elisha’s immediate response to his servant. 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16). I bet his servant is going, “Have you lost your mind? What do you mean ‘Don’t be afraid’? Look around you man, we are completely surrounded. And Elisha, they are not here to hang out over a cup of coffee!”
Right about now, his servant is freaking out. Based on what he sees he has given up all hope and he’s thinking, “This is it. We are doomed!” He thought it was what it was but what he didn’t know was God was working and as long as God is working things don’t have to be as they appear to be. So, now after his servant thinks he is crazy, Elisha begins to pray. This is the good stuff! 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17). Look where it says the army of God was. Not just in Dothan, but all around Elisha. When you guard your heart, guard your mind, walk in God’s ways, in the midst of the enemy and His attack and this world system, He will surround you with Himself and His army. What things appear to be is not what they have to be.
What you see doesn’t have to be until you see all God wants you to see! Our prayer needs to be just like Elisha prayed right here, “Lord, open our eyes so we can see!” And while we are waiting to hear from the Lord and see what God is up to we have to rest in Him. 19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19-NIV). What you have recently seen, heard or experienced might cause you great concern. Things might seem borderline depressing. But know that God is working, pray that God will allow you to see what He is doing and all the while rest in Him and allow His truth to be your refuge and joy.
What things appear to be at the moment don’t have to be what they really are. Appearance doesn’t have to be reality! It wasn’t time to say, “It is what it is” because God had not made Himself known yet. The heavenly army was on top of the mountain with horses and chariots that immeasurably outnumbered the enemy. Things were not what they appeared to be. What have you seen in the news that appears to be pretty bad? . . . What have you heard this week that appears to be doom and gloom? . . . What have you experienced this week that makes you feel as if things are not going to turn out so good? . . . etc. Whatever it might be, know that when God is at work, and He always is, things do not have to be what they appear to be.